Conveys the facts, but little else.

THE LIFE OF JOHN WESLEY

A BRAND FROM THE BURNING

From British politician/author Hattersley (Buster’s Diaries, 2000, etc.): a biography of Methodism’s founder regrettably lacking in the “enthusiasm” that made his evangelical sect the most dynamic faith in 18th-century England.

John Wesley (1703–91) was not alone in feeling there was something essential missing in the anemic brand of Protestantism offered by the complacent, corrupt Church of England. The Holy Club established by his younger brother Charles at Oxford, which John joined in 1729, was one of many small religious societies whose members sought a more active and committed spiritual life. Methodism (so called because the members believed in systematic exercises of piety) became a national movement because John Wesley’s emphasis on an ecstatic moment of conversion and a personal relationship with God spoke powerfully to people neglected by the established church, especially poor people. But Hattersley has little interest in the qualities that sparked tumultuous mass response when, in 1739 Wesley began reluctantly preaching in fields; he calls fellow Methodist George Whitefield a better orator and suggests Whitefield would have been a better leader. The author stresses Wesley’s constant doctrinal shifts, most of which will be incomprehensible to modern readers not versed in theological history, and his equally vacillating relationships with women to paint an unflattering portrait of a man who frequently changed his mind and then insisted he’d believed the same thing all along. This makes it difficult to appreciate Methodism’s enormous impact on English society and culture, or to have much interest in Wesley himself. Lengthy discussions of debates over Methodism’s organizational structure and its uneasy relationship with the Church of England, from which it did not officially separate until after Wesley’s death, are certainly necessary but not written in a manner likely to engage the general reader. Hattersley’s joint biography of Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth (Blood and Fire, 2000) did a much better job of intertwining psychological, religious, and social issues in a more compelling narrative.

Conveys the facts, but little else.

Pub Date: June 24, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50334-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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